Education

Scruci joins other districts questioning state report cards

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The state may need a refresher course on how to do testing. Once again, Bowling Green City School District scored low in some areas on its state report card. But according to Superintendent Francis Scruci, that may say more about the tests than the school district. In the area of “achievement” – which represents the number of students who passed the state tests and how well they performed on them – Bowling Green scored a D. The sting from that grade is lessened a bit by the similar grades earned across the state, Scruci said. Of the 607 districts scored, only 22 got an A, 15 scored a B, 22 got a C, and 58 earned a D. The vast majority – 490 – earned an F. “As educators we know when we create tests for classrooms, there should be a bell-shaped curve,” Scruci said. The fact that most districts failed, raises “obvious questions.” “This is a pretty good illustration that this system is not working,” he said about the state grade cards. Scruci is not alone in his harsh opinion of the state tests. Many Wood County superintendents share his criticisms. “Everyone is frustrated with the system itself,” he said. “The system is flawed. If a teacher were to give a test and get scores like that,” they would do it again. In addition to the “achievement” area, the other grades given to Bowling Green schools include: D for gap closing. This shows how well schools are meeting the performance expectations…


Margaret Neifer turns 100 with a lot of spunk and stories

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Margaret Neifer turns 100 on Wednesday, she will be bucking the odds. “I eat too many sweets. I use too much salt,” said Mrs. Neifer, a retired teacher living in Bowling Green. “I don’t drink enough water. I’ve never been a health nut.” She had a rocky start to her life. Growing up in East Toledo, Margaret had frequent bouts of pneumonia. The front door of her home was often posted with warnings of contagious illnesses. Yellow for chicken pox. Red for scarlet fever. Another color for measles. “I got them all,” she said. For much of the first six years of her life, Margaret would sit inside and play on her windowsill with her friends outside the window. But those early illnesses must have toughened her for later in life. One day shy of 100, and she has the health that many half her age would envy. She takes no medication, lives in her home with Tilly the cat, takes care of herself, writes her own checks, keeps up on current events, and can carry on conversations for hours  – seriously. “She does have a cane. However, she carries it rather than using it,” said her son Don Neifer, who lives in Bowling Green. “I have been blessed with good health,” as an adult, Mrs. Neifer said. “I see the doctor next week. He is always worried about my legs holding me up.” Mrs. Neifer wasn’t the only one in her family to struggle with health issues. Her father, a…


Collab Lab aims to make its mark by sparking innovation at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Collab Lab in Bowling Green State University’s Jerome Library has plenty of top notch technology—virtual reality headsets, video for 3D modeling, 3D scanner and printers, laser etchers, a suite of graphic programs, and markers. “You never want to be out of reach of a marker and a dry erase board,” said Jerry Schnepp, the lab director. All the high-tech equipment is ready at hand and in its place – at the periphery of the lab. The center of the space are comfortable chairs, arranged in semi-circles, partitioned off with white boards. Other prototyping materials are ready at hand, sheets of butcher paper, pipe cleaners, and magnets. These humble tools are “things that will help you get your ideas out of your head and tangible,” Schnepp said. The Collab Lab opened last week. It was funded with money from the state’s Next Frontier fund. The university received about $350,000 in state money, which it then matched. (http://bgindependentmedia.org/bgsu-taps-state-grant-to-get-ideas-flowing-at-collab-lab/) The lab is opened to students, staff and faculty from all disciplines, Schnepp said. The idea is to foster cross-disciplinary collaborations. The lab is also open to community members, as a way of spurring entrepreneurial ideas. The mission of the lab is not to bring innovations to fruition, but rather to germinate the ideas. On a recent morning Emily Aquilar, of the Department of Theatre and Film faculty, was on hand with a number of her students. She directs the Treehouse Troupe. The troupe will present Dennis Foon’s “New Kid” at area elementary and middle schools this…


BGHS dress code patience running short … just like the clothing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Parents with high school daughters know the drill. Before the teens leave for school, they have to pass the fingertips test. “I check every morning,” said Shari Beeker, who has two daughters at Bowling Green High School. “Do your fingers go below your shorts?” So far, Beeker’s daughters haven’t had a problem. But others have not fared so well. As is customary for the beginning of the school year, some students are testing the boundaries of the high school dress code. And this year, some parents are suggesting that it’s difficult to find teenage clothing that meets the dress code criteria. So Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci is looking for 20 high school staff, parents and students to be part of a Dress Code Task Force, to review, discuss and perhaps make changes to the current policy. Scruci sent out emails to all high school parents asking those interested to contact him. Part of the problem may be that the high school is not air conditioned – so some students wear as little clothing as possible. But Scruci suggested some common sense is needed. “Everybody is still dressing like it’s summer,” Scruci said last week. “It’s got to become common sense.” High school principal Jeff Dever said the dress code may need some tweaking. But overall, it’s reasonable. “No one should see bra straps and parts of rear ends,” Dever said. “I don’t think it’s outdated. Some of the parents think they can’t find clothes that meet the dress code,” he said….


Bid accepted for $4 million middle school addition

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Construction of the Bowling Green Middle School addition is expected to begin before the end of the month, according to the architect working on the project. The board of education voted this morning during a special meeting to accept a bid from ACI Construction Co., of Alvada, Ohio. The firm submitted the lowest base bid of $3,925,000 for the project. Five bids were submitted for the middle school academic wing and cafeteria addition, according to Kent Buehrer of Buehrer Group Architecture & Engineering. Three were under the published estimate and all five were within 10 percent of the budgeted $4.6 million. “They are not a stranger to the site,” Buehrer said of ACI Construction Co. The firm did the foundation work on the middle school when it was built. In addition to the base bid, the school board also decided to add four alternates for climate master heat pumps, clear cafeteria windows, classroom dimming lights, and landscaping enhancements. Those alternates add another $24,000 to the project. The classroom furnishings and nine additional cafeteria tables have been estimated at $224,528 – bringing the total cost of the project to $4.6 million. Buehrer said the furnishing estimate seemed high, and suggested that the board go out for competitive bids later. The board voted to borrow $4.4 million for the addition, with plans to pay back the loan with permanent improvement funds. District Treasurer Rhonda Melchi suggested the board use contingency money to pay for the furnishings, rather than borrow the entire $4.6 million. “I…


Education students ring in start of their BGSU careers

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The first-year students in the College of Education and Human Development at Bowling Green State University rang in the new academic year Friday in what Dean Dawn Shinew hopes will be the beginning of a new tradition. The students gathered around noon Friday outside the Little Red Schoolhouse. One by one they rang the old school bell outside. When they graduate they will return and ring the bell again. “We wanted to create a new tradition,” Shinew said. The one-room schoolhouse, which was originally built in Huron County, was moved to campus at the instigation of then Dean David Elssas in 1974. “It’s at the center of campus,” Shinew said, “because this is what we should be about.” It seemed fitting to have students in the College of Education start the year here. This represents the history of the university, said Hannah Coursey, one of the first year students participating in the bell ringing. Anthony Vellucci, from Mansfield, also participated in the ceremony. He said the ringing of the bell was a fitting wayto begin and then round out his college career. While four years seems like a long time, he knows the four years of high school went by quickly, and he expects his college career will as well. The good reputation of BGSU’s programs attracted both Vellucci and Coursey to the school. BGSU is known for the quality of its education programs, said Coursey, who comes from Cincinnati. Her goal is to teach high school Chinese. Her class was the first in…


BG Schools good bond rating should help with addition

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City School’s healthy bond rating should pay off for the district when it finances the middle school addition. During Tuesday’s board of education meeting, Kent Cashell, of RBC Capital Markets, reported on the middle school debt issue. Last month, the school board voted unanimously to request bids for a $4.15 million expansion of the middle school to relieve serious overcrowding. The plan is to pay for that project with permanent improvement money, so it will be completely separate from the bond issue project on the November ballot. Cashell explained this financing is different than most building bond issues, since the school district will not need to ask voters for new funding to repay the loan. The district will use already voted on permanent improvement funds to pay for the debt incurred for the middle school addition. Cashell said the district will be looking to borrow for the shortest period of time, with comfortable payments, to save on interest rates. The Bowling Green district has a solid bond rating – at AA2 by Moody’s – which is one of the best in the state, Cashell said. “The district is in good financial standing,” he said. The middle school is the newest building in the district, having been constructed in 2009. But the problem is that it was built to house two grades – seventh and eighth graders. However, when a couple older elementary schools in the district were closed, the sixth graders were also moved into the middle school. The middle…


Penta Career Center plans satellite school in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Penta Career Center may soon have a satellite school in Bowling Green. The Bowling Green Board of Public Utilities voted Monday evening to transfer acreage in the Bellard Business Park on the northwest side of the city to the Bowling Green Community Development Foundation. Two acres of the business park, near the intersection of Newton and Brim roads, will then be sold to Penta Career Center. Penta plans to construct a building to hold morning and afternoon classes for students who will be able to travel to local employers to continue their training and education. The school is also considering using the facility to offer adult training classes in the future, said Brian O’Connell, director of the city’s public utilities. City council will have a public hearing Monday on an ordinance that will pave the way for the vocational training school use in the city’s zoning code. The Bowling Green Community Development Foundation has been working with Penta Career Center to find a permanent location for a satellite school. The school is seen as a first step for collaboration with business parks for training and workforce development for existing manufacturers. One of the biggest needs expressed by local manufacturers is the lack of a skilled workforce, according to Sue Clark, executive director of the Bowling Green Community Development Foundation. The city owns the acreage in the business park, and the community development foundation markets the properties for sale. Penta’s purchase of two acres leaves 3.1 acres remaining open for development in Bellard…


BG Schools bringing home better state report card

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   This report card may make the front of the refrigerator Dr. Ann McCarty, executive director of teaching and learning for Bowling Green City Schools, reported to the board of education Tuesday evening that the state had released preliminary reports cards for school districts. Though far from complete, the grades showed a far more favorable report for Bowling Green schools. Some of the grades may still appear dismal to those outside education – nothing to brag about. But to educators, who know what the numbers mean, they showed great improvement, McCarty said. For example, in the area of “gap closing” between special education and other students, the district improved from an “F” to a “D.” “That’s huge in terms of statistics,” McCarty said. “Our teachers worked really hard on this.” Other success stories were found in K-3 literacy, which went from an “F” to a “C.” “This is a huge upgrade for us,” she said. The elementary schools saw significant gains. “Our teachers were doing things differently,” McCarty said. In the area of social studies, fourth graders met the state benchmark. And in English, “almost every single grade saw growth. We’re seeing growth out of our students.” In the area of math, sixth and seventh grade math showed solid gains, and high school algebra scores rose 15 percent. “That’s a huge gain,” McCarty said. All the second language students in third grade passed, which is quite an achievement, she added. The only drop seen was in science, and McCarty said that was most…


1,000 backpacks to help kids start back to school

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Angela Jones, of Weston, had no idea how she was going to afford school supplies for her six children this year. She found the answer with a little help from local agencies, businesses and churches. Mary Jane Perez, of Perrysburg, agonized over those same concerns for her five grandchildren. She estimated it would cost at least $300 to get the grandchildren started in school. “It’s very expensive right now,” Perez said. But her mind was eased a bit Wednesday as she carried out five new backpacks loaded with school supplies. Her grandchildren tried them on and checked out the contents. “I picked mine out,” her youngest granddaughter said, showing off her pink camo print backpack. Jones picked out bookbags for her children, and said each child had also gotten vouchers for new shoes to start off the school year. Her worries, however, were not over. “I don’t even know how I’m going to get them clothes this year.” More than 500 backpacks were ready for families to pick up Wednesday at the Back to School Fair at Woodland Mall, organized by the Salvation Army and United Way. The fair was scheduled to start at 3 p.m. “At 1 o’clock they started showing up,” said Sue Clanton, director of United Way of Wood County. Half of the 500 bags were gone in the first hour, she said. “School supplies are a huge thing for families.” Earlier this week, an additional 500 backpacks, stuffed with school supplies were given out by Wood County Job…


‘Making It’ camp builds kids’ interest in manufacturing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Their assignment was serious: Design a glider that can carry a spectrometer over Lake Erie to identify algal blooms before they reach dangerous levels. Their supplies were not so serious: A shoe box, cardboard, duct tape, popsicle sticks, yarn, aluminum foil, Saran wrap and pennies. The young engineers were middle school students, mostly from Bowling Green, who signed up last month for a five-day manufacturing camp, called “Making It.” The camp was designed to help Wood County students learn about manufacturing, teamwork and local production facilities. In addition to spending one day engineering gliders at Bowling Green State University, the students also visited manufacturing sites in Wood County, including Owens-Illinois, Home Depot, Lubrizol and Northwood Industries. Students toured each of the sites to get a better picture of what modern industries look like. Penta Career Center also hosted an advanced manufacturing lab using robotics. The goal was to show students that manufacturing no longer means repetitive, thoughtless processes. In many cases, it involved high-tech engineering skills. “This is some really good hands-on experience,” said Maria Simon, of Wood County District Public Library, which was one of the camp sponsors. “It’s not just ‘Let’s make a glider.’ But let’s make one that does what we want it to do.” As the students struggled with their gliders, they heard from two NASA engineers from the Glenn Research Center, Nicole Smith and Eric Reed. “I hear you guys are going to be doing some pretty incredible stuff this week,” Smith said. Both women work with…


Girls sink their teeth into STEM … and sharks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The slimy, smelly spiny dogfish sharks were placed on the lab tables in front of the young girls. “Ewwwww,” one girl said squeamishly. “I can never eat gummy sharks again,” another girl said. This was the moment they had been waiting for at Tech Trek week – shark dissection. They were armed with gloves, scalpels and scissors to open up the gray sharks native to Australia. Some were a little timid about slicing into the sharks. “Oh my goodness,” one girl said with apprehension. Others were ready to explore. “I call dibs on making the first cut,” another said with glee. The shark dissection class Wednesday at Bowling Green State University’s Tech Trek week was just one of several sessions to help the participants realize that their female gender should not keep them from careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). The fifth annual Tech Trek, supported by the American Association of University Women, is intended to make STEM educations and careers more accessible to girls. The program is only open to girls, so they are encouraged to pursue their STEM interests in an environment free from stereotypes, and given the chance to believe in themselves. Tech Trek is based off of the research titled “Why So Few?” which shows that women enter STEM fields at much lower rates compared to their male peers.  The research also showed that the crucial time to get to girls before they give up on STEM careers is in junior high. “The most critical time…


Horizon Youth Theatre marks 20 years of acting up at gala

By TESSA PHILLIPS BG Independent Contributor The excitement was palpable as community members of all ages began to fill the Simpson Garden Banquet Room last night for the Horizon Youth Theatre’s 20th anniversary gala. Kids sat at tables decorated with photos from past HYT performances and reminisced on favorite stage memories. Genevieve Simon, one of the guest speakers at the gala, spotted a scrapbook and sat down to look through it with her brother, Martin. “Martin was part of Horizon for about two years, maybe longer,” Genevieve said. “Our whole family was involved, and that’s kind of how I was roped into it,” Martin added, grinning at his sister. Martin, a senior in high school, has plans to study theater in college, like his sister before him. “Horizon definitely encouraged me to pursue theatre as a career. It inspired me,” he said. After an hour of hors d’oeuvres, HYT members began doing what they do best—entertaining the audience. Scott Regan took the stage with co-founder Jo Beth Gonzalez and spoke about the importance of history and storytelling. “These two things separate us from the animals,” Regan said. Regan became emotional as he shared a story about a child who had become ill and had been sent to the hospital around the time of an HYT production of “Winnie the Pooh.” Before a painful procedure, she had told her mom that she wished she was “back in the Hundred Acre Wood.” “What does this tell us? To me, it proves that theatre gives kids something to hold on to during hard times,”…


BG School bond issue meets with protest and praise

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The school bond issue faced a little more hostility from residents during the second public forum on the issue Thursday evening. But it also was met with some heartfelt support. Bowling Green City Superintendent Francis Scruci started the forum with an overview on the bond issue for new and renovated school buildings. The evening was heavy on numbers – and some were pretty hefty. In order to raise nearly $72 million for the buildings, the district will need to pass a 6-mill bond issue that will go on for 37 years. “It is a big number, there’s no way around saying it,” Scruci said. For the owner of a house valued at $100,000, that means an extra $210 a year. But since the average house value in Bowling Green is $170,000, Scruci said that would add up to $357 a year. And for those on the higher end, with a $250,000 home, the bond issue would mean another $525 a year. Some citizens in the audience said they aren’t against students, teacher or schools – but they just can’t afford the project. “Have you seen the crops under water,” shouted Chris Sabo. Scruci said he realized the cost was high – but so is the reward, he said. “This is an investment in our kids. This is an investment in our community. This is an investment in our future.” But to Sabo, the cost is too high. “Then you’re not going to have a city, cause everybody is going to move out,”…


BG Middle School addition to relieve overcrowding

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Schools is facing the challenge of passing a bond issue in November to build a consolidated elementary school and a major reconstruction of the high school. But first, the district has to respond to a more immediate construction need. On Tuesday evening, the board of education voted unanimously to request bids for a $4.15 million expansion of the middle school to relieve serious overcrowding. The plan is to pay for that project with permanent improvement money, so it will be completely separate from the bond issue project. The middle school is the newest building in the district, having been constructed in 2009. But the problem is that it was built to house two grades – seventh and eighth graders. However, when a couple older elementary schools in the district were closed, the sixth graders were also moved into the middle school. The middle school currently houses about 750 students. Unless the building is expanded, the overcrowding issue will worsen in a couple years when an abnormally large class entering fifth grade now reaches the middle school, pushing the student count close to 800. To relieve the overcrowding, another classroom wing is planned. It will be situated to the south and parallel to the existing classroom wing. An open courtyard area will sit between the two wings. The new one-story addition will likely be used for the eighth graders. Construction bids will be opened by the board next month, with construction planned to start by September. The goal is to…